They all pay considerable lip service to Lakoff & Johnson's seminal 1980 work Metaphors We Live By, taking as gospel the notion that metaphor is defined as a mapping from one conceptual domain to another. But their examples are all of a limited type. Here are three representative examples from the papers I've been reading:
- Achilles was a lion. (Babarczy et al.)
- The sky is sad. (Tang et al.)
- I attacked his arguments (Baumer)
Here is my Ling 101 version of this methodology: If I understand correctly (and I may not), for Tang et al.'s example "The sky is sad", we would have a concept like THE ENVIRONMENT IS HUMAN. We would have a list of words typically associated with the environment (e.g., "sky") and a list of words typically associated with being human (for example "sad"). A computer could then recognize the following:
- The subject (the sky) is associated with the environment.
- The predicate (sad) is associated with humans.
- This subject (the sky) is not typical for this predicate (sad).
- This sentence is incoherent on first analysis.
- The concept THE ENVIRONMENT IS HUMAN links these non-typical phrases coherently.
- This sentence is only coherent using conceptual mapping, therefore it is probably metaphorical.
At first blush, I'm impressed with the simplicity and elegance of this solution. However, it seems to me that much metaphorical language is not local like this (local here = within a single sentence). For example, imagine a situation in a biology class where two students, Alger and Miriam, were originally going to be partners for a lab assignment. Then they got into an argument. A third student, Annette, asks Miriam:
- Annette: Are you still going to be lab partners with Alger?
- Miriam: No. That ship has sailed.
Xuri Tang, Weiguang Qu, Xiaohe Chen, & Shiwen Yu (2010). Automatic Metaphor Recognition Based on Semantic Relation Patterns International Conference on Asian Language Processing
The Automatic Identification of Conceptual Metaphors in Hungarian Texts: A
Corpus-Based Analysis. Anna Babarczy, Ildikó Bencze M.1, István Fekete1, Eszter Simon1
Computational Metaphor Identification to Foster Critical Thinking and Creativity. ERIC BAUMER (dissertation). 2009.